MINOT, N.D. (KXNET) — Nearly 200,000 people leave the U.S. military every year, and about one in every four of those veterans admit it’s difficult to transition back into civilian life. That’s why these two Retired U.S. Airmen are using their own difficult transitions, to ease other veterans back into society.

“I experienced it,” recalls Air Force Veteran and Ward County’s Veteran Services Director Bradley Starnes. “I separated from the military. I had housing issues, I had job issues. It’s a big transition.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do for a job,” said fellow Veteran and the foundation’s Administrative Assistant Heather Dignan. “It was a difficult time just trying to find resources.”

Starnes says the adjustment out of the military service is one of the most challenging that veterans go through — and that the the job aspect in particular is number one on the list of hardships, because most military training and certifications don’t transfer over to civilian careers.

“For instance,” says Starnes, “I was Security Forces — Military police. Those accreditations and training wouldn’t allow me to just go right on to Minot PD with no training or further education and be able to get a job.”

“Because of the nature of what we did,” Dign states, “we basically changed our whole lifestyle. We were so used to being told what to do basically from the time we woke up to the time we went to bed most days. When you make that transition into the civilian world, you don’t have people telling you where you need to be at certain times.”

More than 50% of people who transition from the military leave their first civilian job, whether by quitting or getting fired –and the Veterans with the highest risks of suicide are those living in rural areas. Leaders say that’s because of the lack of resources available. This is exactly why Starns and Dignan have both dedicated their lives to being a one stop shop for anything veterans are struggling with.

“I actually used this office when I was getting out of the military,” says Dignan. “Great people were working here. They got me any benefits for medical they led me in direction for job services, and things of that nature. It was a very key asset when I got out. “

“Whether you are active duty, or you’re a veteran in the community, you can come here for everything,” said Starnes. “Even if we don’t offer it directly at this office, myself and all of my staff are extremely knowledgeable within anything to do with the VA, local education, local on the job training resources, and things like that.”

They say whether you are just getting out of the service or you are a long-time Veteran, the Ward County Veteran Services staff has the resources to lead your life in whatever direction you want to take it. The group’s office is located on the first floor of the Ward County Admin Building, next door to the courthouse.